Chapter 1

A coworker was supposed to meet me at McGinty's for drinks, but he had yet to make his appearance. We were going to talk about the possibility of expanding my advice column at work, and as excited as I was to discuss that, I didn't think he was going to show. It was okay because gazing about the bar, I noticed a very familiar, raven-haired beauty tucked away in a booth, with a textbook and a half a beer. Lauren was the only medical student I'd ever met who studied in a bar.

A smile splayed on my lips, I turned around, brushing shoulders with one of the handsome Irishmen who always seemed to be at McGinty's, lost in a fit of banter and drunken comradery. I held out my credit card to Doc. "You see that pretty girl over there?" I pointed at Lauren's booth, causing a few of the men who overheard my comment, including the two Irishmen, to glance over their shoulders at Lauren. "Will you send her a new beer? And charge whatever she drinks for the rest of the night to my card, please?"

I heard a few chuckles, of course, directed at me. The idea of two women being together was so perverted and sexualized by straight men, but I'd gotten so used to it by now.

"Sure Avery," sputtered Doc. "Not a-a-a-a problem." It was followed by one of his usual, beautiful indiscretions. "Fuck. Ass!"

"And a jack and coke for me, please?" I added with an appreciative smile. I turned away from the bar and made my way over to Lauren.

Typically, I don't return to one night stands, but there was a type of innocence about Lauren and her newly discovered attraction to women that just made her desirable. I loved the idea of being one of her first sexual encounters with another woman because I knew from personal experience how important mine had been to me.

Sexuality is a fragile, decadent thing. Your first experiences carry with you into the rest of your life, and it changes you. I myself had a very particular sexual identification. I went with what I felt, as long as all parties were consenting, and normally, I don't limit myself to one sexual partner. Very few times in my life have I only had one significant other or partner.

I slid into the bench across from her, forcing her to pull her attention away from her textbook in surprise. Excitement lingering in her tone, "Avery, what are you doing here?"

The waitress arrived with our drinks, placing Lauren's unexpected beer in front of her, and my Jack and coke in front of me.

"I was supposed to meet a coworker," I shrugged. "He didn't show, but I saw that you were here and decided I'd join you." I wore my most charming smile. "That is if you're not busy."

"Oh, no!" Her textbook was slammed closed and pushed aside, nestling the beer I'd ordered in between her feminine, manicured fingers.

The waitress, who'd yet to depart, bent down to an eye level with me. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Avery, but I'm supposed to let you know that the gentlemen over by the bar," – she pointed to the two handsome Irishmen I'd bumped shoulders with earlier – "they insisted on paying for your drinks."

My eyes fell on the two. They were involved in a loud conversation with their surrounding friends, their roaring laughter shaking the air, unaware of my observation. I forced a polite smile for the girl's sake. "Thank you, Abbey."

As soon as Abbey was out of earshot, Lauren glanced over her shoulder to catch a look at the boys. "They're cute, aren't they?" she said mischievously.

I twirled my small, red straw around the ice of my drink. "Oh, you're just trying to make me jealous," I teased.

A shade of red rose to her cheeks.

She was right, though. They were quite handsome, both of exceptional build, identical heights, slightly different aesthetic features, and there was a similarity about them that couldn't quite be placed. And apparently, they felt compelled to pay for our drinks.

As I sat back in the booth, watching them from across the bar, it was almost as if one felt my eyes on the back of his head. Pausing in his conversation, the less rowdy of the two looked at me. As our eyes met, the corner of his mouth lifted, and he lifted up his drink to me. Politely smiling back, I lifted mine.

There weren't that many people at McGinty's. There were four men at the bar, myself and Lauren, the bartender and the waitress, of course, and a couple of old men tucked away in the far corner. The gentleman stationed at the bar were producing most of the noise, but even as their happy sounds filled the air, the mood still changed as soon as two more men entered the bar.

At first, it was Lauren's eyes growing wide at the sight of something behind me that caught my attention. I glanced over my shoulder to see two large, menacing looking individuals. They looked like they woke up every morning with the intentions of causing trouble. It was the way they sauntered in, both of them adorning three piece suits and the looks in their eyes. One even sported a pair of sleek, black leather gloves, which was ominous all on its own. You wear gloves to hide fingerprints – creepy. Their entry even warranted the cease in the conversation of the table in the far corner, the old people watching warily as the two thuggish looking men approached the bar.

I'd come to accept that every great city had a mob problem. Boston was no exception. Recently, the crime rates had doubled; leaving the police forced over worked and under budgeted. This only made it easier for criminals to commit and get away with their crimes. Over the past few weeks, Doc had been harassed by members of the Russian mob. Rumor had it, if my journalist friends heard right, was that they'd be buying up properties in this area soon. By the looks of those two big shots by the bar, I assume Doc didn't have long.

One of the Irishmen tapped the other on the shoulder, drawing his attention to the two thugs, soon after their friends catching on as well, their banter dying. Our four men at the bar quieted, all was still.

I've seen my fair share of bar fights. Sometimes they're nasty, and sometimes, they're just stupid. This one started off as stupid and turned nasty really quick. At first, I'd ignored the men entirely, turning around to my drink, minding my own business, and attempted to start an idle chat with Lauren. Before long, I'd had the situation tuned out until the thugs were shouting and throwing around threats.

And, I realize that there were four men at the bar and only two thugs. Truthfully, they were outnumbered. However, the thugs' size compensated for their lack of quantity. One was just under six feet tall, average height, but he was a chunky fellow. Chunky is a polite way of saying fucking fat. Unlike the first one, Fatty Mc Fat-Fat, the second thug reached nearly seven feet and was rather muscular and bulky.

I almost thought that those two Irishmen deserved getting the shit beat out of them when they interrupted the thugs' speech with a quick chug of their beers and started throwing punches. They'd been asking for trouble. I'm quite keen on keeping out of dangerous situations, myself, that and things pertaining to none of my business, but I just can't watch two giants pummel four average sized men, ranging from tipsy to belligerent.

The few elderly gentleman in the corner got up from their table as soon as the rumble broke out, all waddling hastily for the door. There were sounds of battle cries from drunken men, and a few death threats floating about the air through the cacophony of punches and breaking furniture.

Lauren tensed completely, pinning her back against the wall inside the booth. Barely breathing, appearing similarly to a deer in the headlights. "Oh my God, should we call the police?"

So I can get murdered for being a rat? I don't think so.

I was probably as terrified as Lauren was, but Lauren and I had about a six year age difference. I was positive I'd seen more violence than her and our ideas of handling this situation were on different scales.

At the shatter of glass, one of the Irishmen was down for the count, completely unconscious. The fat man, having broken a glass beer bottle over the Irishman's head, then turned his attention to a long-haired, bearded fellow. The tall thug had both the second Irishman and the fourth bar customer pinned up against the wall by the throats. It looked as though our boys had bitten off more than they could chew.

I couldn't just sit by and watch these guys get the total shit beat out of them and – by the looks of the knocked out Irishman – possibly killed. So, as scared shitless I was to call the police, I figured, as a medium sized woman in heels (hadn't even gotten time to change after work before opening a can of whoop-ass) I surveyed my options around the bar and went for the best bet.

The polished wooden bar stool felt smooth underneath my fingers as I ignored Lauren's pleas to stay out of this, lifted the stool over my head, and with all of the strength, I could muster, smashed it over the back of the taller man's head. I was surprised at just how quickly he went tumbling down, taking his victims with him.

I didn't want to give any time for the other thug to react, so as soon as I registered that the first was down, I turned around, grabbed the second stool, and broke it over the other's back. He went down with a little bit more struggle, only taking a few more seconds to black out than his friend over there.

My heart was racing as both men were on the ground, face down, and blacked out. I asked myself what in the actual fuck was wrong with me. I had just knocked out two members of a mob, people who don't think twice about murdering a cow for not being a chicken, after interrupting a damn bar fight? I should have just let those two Irishmen get the shit beat out of them, but I supposed they were cute, and I'd cut them a break today.

"Holy fuck!" exclaimed the long-haired, bearded man, now collapsed onto the ground, whose ass I'd just saved.

I ignored him, turning my attention to the remaining, conscious Irishman. "What the fuck was that?"

"Aye," he beamed from ear to ear, "'at was pretty good." He peered down at the giant at his feet, giving him a nudge with his boot. "Ye knocked 'em out cold. These fuckers won't be causin' anyone any trouble anytime soon."

"Avery!" Turning around, I saw Lauren kneeling over the knocked out Irishmen. I, and his friend, both came to his side.

"Fuck, Con…" hissed the first man.

"What's his name?" asked Lauren, inspecting his forehead.

"Connor."

"Connor?" she called his name, trying to rouse him. "Can you hear me?" Checking his pulse, she looked up and said, "He's gonna be okay. I think he's just knocked out. There's a piece of glass stuck in the skin, but that should be no problem to get out." Her eyes fell on me. "Should we take him to a doctor?"

"I don't know. You're the med student."

In her eyes, I could see her mentally flip through all of her options. Finally, she looked up at the second Irishman. "Who are you? Friend, lover, brother?"

"Brudder," he replied. "If it's just a piece of glass, then we ain't gonna worry about a doctor."

Lauren cocked a brow, obviously disagreeing with him. She, of course, was going to insist on medical treatment, but we probably couldn't do that for the same reason I didn't call the police.

"What's your name?" I asked him, attempting to mediate as Lauren tended to Connor.

"Murphy."

I was captain of the debate team growing up, and in college, I'd started a nonprofit charity. I'd been told that I was a control freak, but I'd like to consider myself a leader. Also, I have a natural talent of barking off orders and people just tend to listen. "Nice to meet you, Murphy," I began cordially. "This is Lauren, here, who's tending to your brother. She's a med student. She's pretty good with blood and such. My name is Avery." I held out a quick hand for him to take, but had already turned my attention to Doc. "Doc," I called over Murphy's shoulder, "put the two stools on my credit card, please." And finally, I looked to the potty-mouthed hippie. "Your name?"

"Rocco?" he answered in a question as if he wasn't sure.

"Alright, we need to get him some place where he can rest until he wakes up. Doc, is there a couch or something in the back?"

We were led into a back room, where Rocco and Murphy placed Connor onto a pool table. It wasn't a couch or a bed, but it would do.

"Murphy, are you sure you don't want to take him to a doctor?" I asked for a final time, pulling off my blazer to bundle up underneath Connor's head.

He shot me a crooked smile. I melted a little. (Only a little.) "It would take me brother jumpin' off a buildin' to get away with takin' him to a hospital."

Abbey brought in two mugs of coffee, handing one to each of us. "Older, younger?"

His smile broadened. "Twins."

So that was the similarity I couldn't quite place. "Apparently not identical, but still very cool."

Lauren stood from beside Connor, where she'd been attempting to remove the small shard of glass in his forehead. "It shouldn't need stitches," she said, looking at me, not Murphy. "They just need to keep it clean and bandaged, and it should be good." She gave me an apologetic expression. "I do have exams this week, so I really need to get home and study."

I smiled. "That's fine. You were a big help here."

She shrugged. "What's the degree worth if I don't use it, right?" I walked Lauren to the door of the back room and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Will you call me?"

I hated that line, but she'd been a good sports tonight. I muffled the rising groan. "Of course."

"Okay. I'll see you later." And after a chaste kiss on the lips, she left.

Standing beside a still unconscious Connor, Murphy shoved his hands in his pockets, leaning against the table. "Girlfriend?"

"I don't do girlfriends," I said wryly, making my way over to the table with the first-aid kit Doc had provided us.

"So ye'r not into girls, then?"

Opening up the kit, I pulled out a piece of gauze and medical tape. "I am into girls, but I don't see how that's any of your business." Men sexualizing my sexuality wasn't really on my to-do list for today.

He held up his hands in defense. "Just tryin' to make conversation."

"With overly personal questions." I began to bandage Connor's cut.

After Connor's bandage was finished, I began to pack up the kit when Rocco tucked his head in the room. "Murph?"

"Yeah?"

"Mike and I are gonna go take care of those assholes. Doc don't want people lookin' in the window freakin' out or nothin'."

My mind immediately derailed at the sound of Rocco's words. There were mobsters, thugs, passed out on the floor of McGinty's and I was the one who put them there. These were men paid to kill, who worked for guys that were so completely out of my league it was ridiculous. My father, chief of police back home, always warned me about gangs and organized crime, how to stay away from anyone who had anything to do with it. And how those situations just snuck up on you. Daddy was right because tonight completely snuck up on me.

My rising levels of anxiety drowning out Murphy and Rocco's words, there was an aching pain in the background. After taking a minute of coming back to reality, landing my far off wandering brain ship back to Earth, I realized the pain was pulsating from my feet in these fucking shoes. I had no mental energy for this shit, so I peeled them off, and threw them to the ground with a loud clack!

I fell into the nearest chair by one of the spray-painted windows, hissing to myself, "Fuck." The anxiety must have been noticeable because it pulled Rocco and Murphy out of their conversation.

"Everythin' all right over there?" called Murphy.

With an exasperated sigh, my eyes closed, and my head fell back. "I can't believe I just fucking did that," I said, only slightly louder than a whisper, more to myself than to the boys.

"It'll be okay." Rocco took a few steps toward me. "I work around these douchebags all the time. They just got hot tempers is all." He waved it off with a hand gesture.

"Plus, they didn't even see yer face." Murphy attempted a comforting smile, but it came out as a smirk. It was kind of cute and added a distraction. "You just came up behind 'em, and wham. Which was very impressive by the way." He gave a courteous nod.

"Don't worry about it." Rocco left the room, calling over his shoulder, "I'mma go handle these fuck faces."

Rocco pulled the door closed behind him, and Murphy leaned himself against the pool table, next to his brother.

"Lauren said he should wake up soon," I said, trying to distract myself from my innermost negative thoughts.

"Aye, he'll be fine. He's gotten worse than a tiny little bottle to his head." There was a moment of silence between us, mostly because I was drowning in worry, but eventually his easy going tone dropped, and he sounded very solemn. "Thanks, by the way."

I was a thousand miles away, now that my feet weren't aching to anchor me home. I caught the last words, my selective hearing betraying me yet again. "What?"

"I said thanks, for yer help back there."

Glancing at my watch, I noticed how late it was. My coworker never did show, but that might have been a good thing for him. I wasn't worried about expanding my advice column anymore, now that I'd convinced myself that I was wanted by the mob (which was such an exaggeration of the realistic situation). "Damn, I need to get home." I stood from the chair and gathered my shoes that had been laying at Murphy's feet.

I straightened up, shoes in hand, and motioned for Murphy to stop as he went to retrieve my blazer jacket from underneath Connor's head. "Don't worry about it. I've got a thousand others just like it."

Murphy towered over me, a good five or six inches (I'm a midget compared to average sized men). By the seriousness in his eyes and his calm exterior, I believed that he really was thankful. Growing up an only child, I never got to experience the bond of sisterhood or having a brother, but I still respected the concept. They were brothers, twins no less. One of them could have been seriously hurt today, more so than a stupid broken beer bottle to the head. I could never relate to what that's like, to spend your entire life with somebody like that, and have that type of bond, and be put in a situation where you might lose them.

Even though I was probably going to be murdered in my sleep by a vengeful Russian mob member (still exaggerating), I was glad I'd stepped in. I'm glad I helped. I would have hated myself had anything happened to anybody tonight.

We were only inches away from one another, and I probably looked like a crazy person just staring up at him, speechless to really say anything productive. My mind was distracted by intrigue and wonderment, intrigued by twins, wondering what it is Murphy must be going through. He seemed easy going enough.

I placed a hand on his shoulder and lifted myself up to place a kiss on his cheek. "I hope your brother feels better." I forced a smile and made way for the door. "Catch you later."

(xxx)

I wanted to tell Ben, the asshole who stood me up for drinks last night, how lucky he was for not showing up, but I work for a Woman's magazine, and you just don't tell things to people in my office that should be kept secret. I'd hate for him to mention it to a journalist or something and then advertise to every thug on the street how a tiny little woman's relationship advice columnist like me took down two big, bad wolves. We will be handing out little red hoods over there. And after, will be hearing an instructional by the Huntsman on how to cut yourself out of a wolf's belly.

Since I couldn't bitch at Ben about it, and Daddy, my very serious Police Chief of a father, only scolded me for intervening in the first place (Funny coming from a hero, right?), that left Lauren. She was more than willing to "console" me, console being her word. At the time, I think I realized that she was getting clingy (only girlfriend-clingy, not stalker-clingy, but it still sucked because we weren't girlfriends), but I didn't want to vent to her and then tell her to buzz off. That would have been rude. I probably shouldn't have slept with her, either. That tends to send mixed signals.

I decided I needed to sit her down and explain to her where I was, and how my dating life works. She was getting dressed, about to head home to get ready for a class, and right as I was about to open the portal to this fun conversation, there was a knock at the door.

"Are you expecting anyone?" she asked, buttoning her shirt.

Clad in pajamas and completely unashamed, I answered the door, mentally taking note to have a peephole installed. To my surprise, Murphy stood outside my door, with my blazer jacket in hand, accompanied by a very conscious and grinning Connor. I didn't do a very good job hiding how unexpected this was on my face.

"Aye!" exclaimed Connor with a smile. "You must be Avery!" Lauren watching from within the apartment, Connor took a step forward without invitation and brought me into an embrace. Even though he was a total stranger, I couldn't help but enjoy his scent of cigarettes and black coffee, so I let the random hug thing go. "You saved our ass, lass!"

The benefit of the doubt only went so far, and I was going to narrow my eyes and lecture him on how I hated being referred to as a girl. Automatically lass registered as just that, but he caught sight of Lauren behind me and granted himself entry into my apartment to harass her with hugs, too.

"Oh, how unexpected." Lauren gave Connor a reluctant pat on the back.

I cocked a brow at Murphy, waiting for an explanation. He gave me a goofy grin and granted himself access to my home, as well. "Thought we'd come and return yer coat to ye." He lifted up the black blazer to me and then threw it over the back of one of the stools at the kitchen bar.

Closing the door behind me, I stepped out of the entry way, where Lauren tiptoed behind me. "How do you know where I live?" I folded my arms defensively.

Connor stuck a hand in his back pocket and handed me a tiny blue piece of plastic. "You forgot your credit card over at McGinty's."

I rolled my eyes, not necessarily at the boys or that I forgot the card, but that it took me this long to even notice it was missing. "Of course, I did," I muttered, throwing it onto the bar, next to my coat, dismissively. "But it's not like you can look on the back of it for an address."

Murphy then turned away from me, his eyes falling on Connor suggestively. Connor shrugged. "Well, we had to get yer card back to ye, lass." My teeth clenched. "And we had to give ye our thanks, too. So, I had no choice but to look at yer contact information over at the bar, so we could return yer items to ye, and thank ye properly."

I had planned on discussing the ethics of going through confidential files, how inappropriate it was to just go through someone's papers and show up at a woman's house uninvited, especially considering the events having gone down. Something else came out, instead. "Avery."

His brow furrowed. He already knew my name. "What?"

"Please," I said, with a long, controlled exhale. "Call me Avery. Not girl, not lass, woman, or anything of the like."

Connor and Murphy gave each other an amused look, and Lauren could see that they were taken a bit off guard by my request and jumped in to prevent any awkwardness. "Well, I need to go get ready for class!" she beamed, grabbing her coat from off the back of the couch. "I'll call you later, okay?"

Inwardly I groaned. I was really looking forward to talking about the whole "girlfriend thing," but with two handsome, unexpected Irishmen standing in my living room, I decided it could wait a bit. I saw her out, trying my best not to seem too into the intimate arm touches or lingering kisses. This is going to suck, later.

The door closing behind her, I furrowed my brows at an unexpected parcel sitting on my bar, next to the coat and credit card. "What's that?" I asked.

With a wide smile, Connor heaved it up into his arms and brought it to me, tipping it over slightly so that I could see its contents. It was a case of beer. "A token of our appreciation."

I couldn't suppress the chuckle that came rising out of my chest. Shaking my head with a smile, I made way around the bar and into the kitchen, grabbing two frosted mugs from the freezer I keep for guests. "I'm not that much of a beer drinker," I said, handing each of them a mug. What was I supposed to do, kick them out? "I, myself," I reached into the liquor cabinet of my kitchen, "am a vodka kind of girl."

"Good God." Connor held the mug up and eyed it like it was a rare diamond. "Who keeps mugs in the freezer at all times just to pull 'em out whenever a couple of Irishmen show up at the door unexpected?"

Murphy held up a bottle of beer at me from across the bar and began pouring. "A bloody saint, that's who."

"Amen to that."

(xxx)

I realize that I'd only met these men a day ago, and I practically knew nothing about them. However, when I'd poured vodka into my lemon-lime soda, I might have overestimated my ballpark measurement. Around drink two, my judgment started to slip, which is how drink three happened. So, an hour and a half later, the boys were sitting in my living room, beer bottles littering the coffee table, and I was making my way from the kitchen with shot glasses in my hand. Lost inside of a drunken haze, our laughter filled the apartment.

"So, you have no idea who was born first?" I sputtered, the shot glasses clinking onto the glass coffee table. I nestled myself onto the ivory, shag carpet, crossing my legs, and began to distribute shots.

"Our Mother's never told us," Connor whined.

"Nobody else would know? A grandma or an aunt or something?"

They shook their heads in unison. "No one's ever had the decency to tell us."

"Avery, who do you think is the oldest?" Murphy inquired before knocking back his shot.

I emitted a very drunk giggle. "How the fuck am I supposed to know?"

Connor had an amused smile. "I dunno, who seems more…" he searched for the words, struggling in his stupor, "mature?"

My eyes shot back and forth between the two, and they waited with grins for me to give my answer. I erupted into giggles again. "You both seem pretty immature to me, to be completely honest."

Murphy didn't seem affected by the comment, but Connor's jaw dropped and his brows furrowed. "We happen to be quite gathered individuals." I couldn't tell if he was actually angry or just feigning. "….When the time calls for it."

"Oh, like chugging beers and starting bar fights?" I said with a cocked brow.

"Aye!" defended Murphy. "Those cock suckers deserved it!"

"Hey!" I pointed an accusatory finger, attempting to be serious, but the giggles just took over. "That's an insult to cocksuckers!"

Interrupting our fit of rabid laughter, the phone rang. I managed to (drunkenly) ninja my way across the couch, grabbing the phone off the end table, and lazily shushed the boys.

"Hello?" I hadn't even bothered looking at caller ID.

"Avery! It's Jeremy!"

The boys were quiet, surprisingly, watching me from the other couch on the other side of the coffee table.

"Hey, Jeremy," I said, taking a sip from my fourth drink. "How're you doing?" I managed to stifle the booze from talking. I was trying to sound as cordial as possible, also attempting to hide my annoyance at the random phone call, considering it was eight o'clock at night and I had guests over.

"I was wondering if you wanted to try that new Mongolian place. It's Vegan-friendly." Jeremy was a gentleman I'd been seeing, who had an interest in independent films and saw organization as a lifestyle necessity. We'd only gone on two dates. I thought he was okay, and as far as I could see, he and I would only remain casual. As much as I enjoyed our first two dates, because he was an enjoyable person to be around, right now, sitting across from two exceedingly hot men with accents, it didn't sound too appealing.

But I knew that was mostly the alcohol talking, as far as not finding Jeremy superbly interesting. And I was flattered to know that he remembered my dietary preferences. "Sure," I said, almost in a sigh, my head falling back onto the couch. I knew that the boys could probably read my body language, but I wasn't paying attention. Thanks, Vodka.

"How does Tuesday sound?"

"I think I might have a meeting that day, let me check." I didn't get up. I remained seated, staring up at the ceiling, the phone plastered to my ear, and gave a pause. "Hold on, opening up the planner." I could hear Murphy's muffled chuckles. "Oh, look, I actually don't have an appointment that day. What time?"

"My lunch starts at eleven. How about yours?"

"I can do noon?"

"So, can I. I'll e-mail you the address."

"Awesome, I'm writing the time down now." Liar.

"I'll see you Tuesday."

"See you, then." Setting the phone onto the glass end table and lifting my head up, I saw two very amused smiles on the boys' faces. The table was completely littered in alcohol paraphernalia, and it dawned on me that drunken me wouldn't remember that time, place, or even with who. "I should probably actually write that last part down, shouldn't I?" I padded my way over to the kitchen, rummaging through drawers for a notepad.

"What was that?" inquired Murphy, pouring himself another shot (fifth, sixth?)

A smile of embarrassment grew on my lips. "Jeremy is kind of a neat freak. He insists I write everything down. He's under the impression I have a planner." I finally found a notepad and pen, and set the tip to paper to write, but as soon as I needed information to flow out, nothing came. Fuck. I already forgot. "What was that time?"

"One o'clock," called Connor from the living room.

At the bar, Murphy shot Connor a disapproving stare, shaking his head. "Noon."

"Thank you," I nodded at Murphy, and said to Connor, "You're gonna be a shitty friend, Connor if you just leave friends out to dry." I wrote down my reminder, and Murphy accompanied me back into the living area, this time sitting onto the couch next to me. I let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm not ready to go on date three with Jeremy. Fuck."

"Moving too fast for ye?" Connor spoke into his drink.

"No, I just haven't had the talk yet."

"Talk?" Murphy cocked a brow.

Oh, this conversation was always fun. "Look, guys, we're all obviously full of alcohol. I wouldn't call us drunk," – I motioned toward the coffee table – "but I would definitely refer to us as judgmentally impaired, so I'm going to just throw it out there."

"Well, we do know that yer not a lesbian now. Otherwise, ye wouldn't be schedulin' dates with lads named Jeremy."

"Unless," interjected Connor, "yer datin' very manly women named Jeremy."

"No, no," I giggled. "Not a lesbian. I just like to…" I searched for the proper words, "go with the flow, you know?"

"Hm, 'go with the flow'. Never heard it quite like 'at before, huh, Murph?"

Murphy shook his head in agreement. "So whatever jus' happens, happens then?"

I shrugged. "Kind of… I do have moral boundaries, but my biggest thing is that I don't believe in a monogamous lifestyle."

With a goofy grin, Connor stood from the couch, and leaned over the table, giving my forehead a gentle rub. "Where's yer horn, there, girl? Are you sure yer not a unicorn?"

Not catching the girl due to my alcohol levels, I was slightly flattered at the comment, and dramatically batted my eyelashes. "No, but I'm close. Seriously, I just don't believe in limiting love. You should like…expand on it, you know what I mean?"

Murphy applauded gently as Connor raised his drink. "Very well said."

"Well, you guys received that well enough," I scoffed. "People freak out when I tell them that I'm not willing to date only one person. It's almost audacious, you know?"

"You always been that way? Open or whatever they call it?"

"Some say open," I informed. "Some say polyamorous. It depends on your situation and preference. But I've never identified as monogamous."

"So you've always had more than one boyfriend?"

"Or girlfriend, but they always know. I never lie. I've always been honest. The trouble lies with when they find out, and how they take it. I try to tell people before we have sex for the first time, or before I notice any emotional attachment on either party."

"So Jeremy doesn't know yet?" asked Connor.

"Nope. Neither does Lauren. I was actually going to talk to her today, but you guys showed up."

"Sorry," said Murph meekly, opening a new beer.

"Oh, it's not a problem. I'll just tell her the next time I see her. She's starting to get really attached."

Since Murphy was next to me, Connor stretched himself across the couch. "You don't like her?"

"I like her." It almost sounded like a complaint. "I just think she likes me more than I like her."

"You ever been in love, then?" Murphy asked casually. "Somebody never got you to settle down?"

My eyes widened, bouncing back and forth between the two of them. "Wow, that's a question that I did not expect to be asked, by either one of you, tonight, while almost drunk."

Connor shrugged. "Just a question."

I took a large sip of my drink. "Me, in love?" What a story. With a nostalgic smile, I thought back to that complicated chapter of my life. "I thought was in love," I said carefully.

The corners of Connor's lips tweaked, speaking into his drink again. "Boy? …Girl?"

"I called her my Amazonian Queen."

"Oh, ye hear tha' Murph?" Excited for details, Connor shot up from his horizontal position. "An Amazonian Queen."

"She was my first serious relationship and my first serious relationship with a female. But," – my drink made a harsh clink as I set it down onto the table – "she fucking broke my heart."

"She polyamorous, too?" said Murph, skeptically.

"She and I were both open, but that wasn't what killed it."

"What did?"

Fucking Natalia. She was older than me, more experienced than me. She knew that I was young and impressionable, and to this day I believe she used that against me. "Natalia is one of those people who are fucked up, in the sense that they let you get attached, and don't bother letting you know that she's not on the same page. She…strings you along." I leaned forward and reached for the vodka bottle. "I need another drink." But before I began to pour, I continued. "That's why I try to be honest. It took me months to recover from that, from loving someone so much, and realizing they didn't love you back. That sucks." I left the bottle on the table, forgotten, and sat back. "That's why I won't do that to Lauren."

The mood dropped a bit, grew temporarily darker, and I expected the boys to want to bail. They did ask, didn't they? But instead, Connor's expression grew serious, as if lost in thoughts momentarily. And Murph said, "Aye, ye'd be an ass if ye just kept it a secret."

"Aye," Connor raised his drink. "Honesty's always the best policy."

I chuckled. "Like you earlier, with that one o'clock bullshit?"

Murphy broke the sad mood with laughter, and Connor waved it off. "Psh, was just pickin' on ye." He motioned to his brother. "If we mess wit' ye, it means we like ye. Ye oughta consider it a compliment."

"Fine, I'll do that," I said, standing. "I'm going to go make some coffee. You guys want some?" It was time Vodka went to bed.

Connor placed his empty glass on the table. "Aye, I'm finished. I'll be shit fer work in the mornin'."

"Mind if I use yer restroom?" Murphy stood with me.

"Sure. Down the hall, First door on the right."

When I smashed two stools over a couple of thugs' heads, I didn't expect for this to be the result, Connor following me into the kitchen, and Murphy using my restroom. I'd just met these two last night. Well, technically, I'd only met Connor a few hours ago, for when he and I'd first made acquaintance, it was a shoulder bump and then he was passed out. I couldn't say that I was complaining, though. They were good company, and after the anxiety I dealt with all day concerning those two thugs, they definitely helped raise my spirits.

I cursed my giant of a housekeeper, Dora, when I opened my pantry to see the coffee was on the very top shelf. I groaned, turning around to look at Connor. He was leaning against my kitchen sink, hands bracing the edge of the counter top, causing the top of his shirt, near the neckline, to tighten over his chest. I tried to hide my admiration from my face, not sure how inconspicuous my checking him out was, and asked him, "Could I borrow your height really quick?"

Judgmentally impaired (thanks again, Vodka), when he moved from his position by the countertop, I didn't step aside. I only turned back towards the pantry, looking up at the top shelf, waiting for my coffee to come down to me, to be with me forever. Connor stepped behind me, reaching to the top shelf, even needing to lift onto his toes. Accidentally, his back touched mine, his hips pressing into my butt, pinning me to the edge of the counter. My breath hitched at the sensation, warmth instinctively and unexpectedly igniting in my lower abdomen.

Driven by curiosity more than anything, I looked at him from over my shoulder, and I could tell by the expression on his face that he was caught off guard just as much as me, but neither of us particularly disliked it. Slowly, as if worried I would scatter at any sudden movements, he placed the canister of coffee down onto the countertop. Restless, I turned around, now facing him, our abdomens touching. Neither of us had put any space in between us yet, and I could feel his breath on my cheeks.

For a second we just looked at each other, wondering what would happen if we just remained here, and – I suppose he was just ready for something to happen – he took my face in his hands. His calloused fingers were rough against my cheeks, and I could taste the whiskey on his breath as he tilted his head down, and kissed me.

Even though I had watched him for the entirety of this interaction, for some reason I was still taken off guard by the kiss, but I didn't move away. I didn't want to. I returned his kiss, quite hesitantly, at first, almost dazed at the contact, but a jolt went through my body, awakening me, as I felt his tongue run along my bottom lip. And then I was awake, I was alert. I tangled my fingers in his hair and leaned into him.

The warmth in my body began to grow, and we both became quite greedy with the kiss, my hands snug in his hair, his migrating to my waist. We were quite comfortable for two people who only formally met a few hours ago. An unexpected moan escaped my lips, and then I heard the bathroom door open, and the click of the light being switched off.

Murphy was walking out of the bathroom, and before I even saw him, I managed to pull from the kiss, quite reluctantly and break the physical contact between Connor and me. His brows furrowed in confusion at the sudden escape, and he followed my eyes to the sight of Murphy making his way back into the living room, completely unaware of the situation at hand in the living room. Connor's eyes rolled in aggravation, but I could tell that there was a mutual understanding in the way he looked at me. The shock and unpleasantry of the separation faded, and he shot me a smirk.

"I hope Columbian is okay?" I called into the living room, returning back to reality, wearing my own smirk.